Herbert off to a flyer

Johnny Herbert got his Le Mans weekend off to the perfect start after his Audi car qualified in provisional pole position last night for the 24-hour French classic.

Johnny Herbert got his Le Mans weekend off to the perfect start after his Audi car qualified in provisional pole position last night for the 24-hour French classic.

The former Formula One driver - who suffered heartbreak at the Indianapolis 500 when he failed to qualify - enjoyed a much better time in yesterday’s sessions, heading the time sheets alongside Rinaldo Capello and Henri Pescatori in the Joest Audi.

Audi are looking for a third consecutive Le Mans triumph and, as expected, dominated the top of the timesheets with Tom Kristensen, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro’s R8 clocking the second fastest time, less than half a second down on the three minutes 30.347 seconds set by Capello.

After topping the times in morning practice, Jan Lammers’ Dome Judd could not repeat the surprise in qualifying and ended the day third fastest.

Former grand prix driver Mark Blundell endured a difficult day as he lead MG’s charge for honours.

The British driver crashed into a slower car at over 130mph, plunging him into the barriers and damaging the car as Blundell struggled to the fifth fastest time of the day.

Countryman Andy Wallace also failed to live up to pre-Le Mans expectations as he took the Bentley to 10th quickest, almost a second slower than the leading Audi.

The second MG of Warren Hughes, Anthony Reid and Jonny Kane sat out the second of today’s qualifying sessions as an engine was replaced, leaving it down in 17th.

Reid said: ‘‘Warren went out first to dust it off for us. We’re quietly confident, we had a successful 24-hour test at Spa, and as Mark Blundell said, this car is capable of getting on the podium.’’

All is not lost for MG as they will have the chance to improve on their performance in today’s two qualifying sessions.

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